Visualizing Success

by Paul Francois & Enrique Garcia

Quite often, an investigator will go into a suspect interview with a less than positive attitude about the outcome. We say things to ourselves like, "This guy's not going to give it up," or "This guy's been around the block and probably won't budge." We size up our opponent and all too often come to the conclusion that the cards are stacked against us. Sometimes this happens 30 minutes into the interview and sometimes it happens before we even walk into the room.

Well, it may sound like common sense, but it's going to be very difficult to succeed in getting someone to tell us the truth if that's our attitude going in. How can we expect to prevail if we don't even believe in our own ability? Taking a positive mental attitude into the interview with us is not only important, it's essential.

We have had great success by using a few simple mental "tricks" of the trade and we'd like to share them with you:

Visualize Success - go into the interview visualizing yourself talking to the person in such a way as to get them to tell the truth. So what if the guy is an ex-con, or has been through the system, is on probation/parole, wears gang clothing, or has more tattoo's than your daughter's new boyfriend. Maybe he just looks like the type who won't give it up. So what?! We must visualize ourselves succeeding if we are going to actually succeed.

Mentally Prepare - it is important to set ourselves up for success by not setting time limits. We should never say to ourselves, "If the guy doesn't give it up after 30 minutes (or an hour, or two hours) I'm gonna call it off." Hey, there are no time limits on these things - it takes as long as it takes. And that rule applies whether you're investigating a simple theft case or a homicide. In order for people to break down and admit their culpability in a crime, it takes time. Tell yourself that you'll stick with it as long as it takes to get the job done.

People Lie - you already know this. You experience it on a daily basis. Don't get upset when it happens - that's their job! Our job is to get them to tell the truth, not lose our composure or take it personally. You can't get people to tell the truth by taking an adversarial position with them. You've got to work with them, not against them.

Remember, we must project an attitude of "It's us (you and the crook) against the system. How are we going to resolve this problem?" We're not personally trying to throw the book at them; we're trying to be objective, reasonable, and professional. The bottom line is that we can only prevail if we believe we can. Taking a positive mental attitude into the interview with us is the first step toward a successful interview and interrogation.

For a copy of our Personal History Questionnaire and other forms, email us at

Paul & Enrique have been team teaching Interviewing & Interrogation together since 1997. They are the principals of Third Degree Communications, Inc.